Tafsir of Short Surahs: Surat al-Duha

A summary of Habib Umar’s commentary on Surat al-Duha, Ramadan 1436

This surah was revealed after a period in which revelation had stopped coming to the Prophet ﷺ . Some of the disbelievers of Quraysh, including the wife of Abu Lahab, said to the Prophet mockingly that Allah had forsaken him and was displeased with him.

Allah then revealed:

By the midmorning

And by the night when it is still

Your Lord has neither forsaken you, nor is He displeased.

The fact that Allah swears by the midmorning (al-duha) is proof of its merit. It is a noble time, in which it is recommended to pray the Duha Prayer. This prayer, along with the prayer between Maghrib and Isha is known as Salat al-Awwabin, or the prayer of those who constantly return to Allah. If someone prays the Fajr prayer in congregation and then remembers Allah until the sun has risen to a spear’s height and then prays the Duha Prayer, they will have the reward of both Hajj and `Umrah. The Prophet ﷺ said: “Performing `Umrah in Ramadan is like performing Hajj with me.”

Many people worship Allah in the night in Ramadan but few stay up after fajr to pray salat al-Duha.

The Prophet ﷺ said: “As each morning comes, every one of you must give charity for every limb of their body.  Saying ‘Subhanallah’ is an act of charity, saying ‘Alhamdulillah’ is an act of charity, saying ‘La ilaha ill’Allah’ is an act of charity, and saying ‘Allahu Akbar’ is an act of charity. Commanding people to do good is an act of charity and forbidding evil is an act of charity. To pray two units at the time of Duha suffices you all this.” The person who prays  the Duha Prayer will also have plentiful provision and will be protected from the Jinn.

Allah thus swears by the morning and by the night that He has not forsaken His Beloved and He is not displeased with him. This is a false claim, since the Prophet is the most beloved of the creation to Allah. 

The hereafter will be better for you than this world

The honour which We will bestow upon you in the next life is far greater than that which We have bestowed upon you in this life. Likewise, although the sincere believer is given mercy and blessings in this life, what is awaiting him is much better.

Another meaning is that for the Prophet ﷺ  every instant is better than the one before it, because he is constantly being elevated. The Prophet is being rewarded for every person who is fasting on the face of the earth today. The pious inherited this state from him, such that every day for them is a celebration, an Eid.

Your Lord will surely give to you, and you will be content

The present tense here is used, implying that Allah will give and continue to give to him. He will give you permission to repeatedly intercede for your nation to the extent that the guardian of the Fire will say: “You did not leave anyone to experience the wrath of your Lord!”

When the Prophet ﷺ cried out of concern for the wellbeing of his Ummah, Allah sent Jibril to say to him: “We will make you content concerning your Ummah.”

There is no one in creation who is more content with Allah than Muhammad and there is no one in creation who Allah is more content with than Muhammad. Allah continues to bestow indescribable gifts upon His Beloved which continue to make him content.

A man from Kufah came to ask Sayyiduna Muhammad al-Baqir whether the hadith of the Prophet’s intercession was authentic. He confirmed that it was and then he said: “You say that the most hopeful verse in the Qur’an is: Say: My slaves who have wronged themselves, do not despair of the mercy of Allah. Allah forgives all sins. Truly He is the All-Forgiving, Most Merciful.[1] We say, however, that the most hopeful verse is Your Lord will surely give to you, and you will be content.” [2]

Allah then reminds His Beloved of the blessings He bestowed upon him at the beginning of his life:

Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter?

When you came into this life your father had already died and then when you were six years old your mother died. But Allah took care of you and placed you in the care of your grandfather `Abd al-Muttalib and then your uncle Abu Talib. Allah used these means but it was in fact He Who was taking care of you.

The word for orphan in Arabic – ‘yatim’-  has the meaning of something unique. It is used to describe a unique jewel. Likewise the Prophet ﷺ  is unique and cannot be compared to anyone else.

Did He not find you wandering and guide you?

The word used here is ‘dall’, which can be applied to someone who is completely in love. The sons of Ya`qub used the same word to describe their father’s love for Yusuf. Allah found you consumed by love for Him, so He guided you to the secrets of direct knowledge of Him which He did not guide others to. We found you amongst a people who worshipped idols and drank alcohol but We guided you and you never did any of these things.

You grew up amongst a people who did not know your station and your greatness. Allah then guided those that He wished through His revelation. They then realised that you were the Seal of the Prophets. It is only Allah, however, who completely knows your station.

Some scholars say that this verse refers to occasions when the Prophet got lost – once when he was a child in Makkah and once when he was travelling with Maysarah. On both occasions Allah guided him back to safety.

Did He not find you in need and make you independent?

The word ‘ghina’ in Arabic has the meaning of wealth and independence. Allah is the One who enriches and makes independent all those who realise that they are in need of Him.

We found you in a poor family and We enriched you, outwardly through the support of `Abd al-Muttalib, Abu Talib and then Khadijah, whose wealth she put at your disposal. But you had no interest in worldly things: whatever wealth came to you, you spent immediately.

Due to your inward neediness, Allah made you independent of everything other than Him, for true wealth is the wealth of the soul. He gave you spiritual support and sustenance such that you said: “I spend the night with my Lord and he gives me food and drink.”

He offered to turn the mountains of Makkah into gold for you without this detracting from your reward in any way, but you refused. One of the Mothers of the Believers said: “The hunger of the Family of Muhammad was by choice.” They could have eaten like everyone else but they chose to prefer others over themselves.  Sayyidah Fatimah would suffer from the pain of hunger, so the Prophet  ﷺ asked Allah to remove this pain. From then on she would be extremely hungry but she would not feel any pain.

The one who is in need of other than Allah and thinks that by this he is independent should realise that independence is only given by Allah. Money can be stolen and you can lose your job but if you rely upon Allah you will be independent for eternity.

Allah then elevated His Beloved through the following teachings and made him the best example to all:

Therefore treat not the orphan with harshness

Tell your Ummah to uphold the rights of orphans and to remember that their Prophet was born an orphan. Do not harm orphans and do not look down upon them. If you are given responsibility for their property then fulfil this responsibility with excellence and give them from your own wealth. Do not take advantage of their weakness and do not think that they have no supporters.

It has been narrated that when an orphan cries, Allah says that He will be content on the Day of Judgement with the one who comforts him and stops him crying. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ raised his index finger and middle finger and said: “I and the sponsor of an orphan will be like these two (fingers) together in Paradise.” We have been taught to treat animals in the best way, so our treatment of Muslims should be far better and our treatment of orphans better than that.

In some Muslim societies orphans are honoured to such a degree that other children wish they were orphans. It is only when people’s faith and attachment to the religion weakens that orphans are abused and looked down upon. The best of houses in Allah’s sight is the house in which an orphan is honoured. The worst of houses in Allah’s sight is the house in which an orphan is mistreated.

And repel not the one who asks

Do not repel anyone, whether they are asking for the provision of this life – something worldly – or the provision of the next life – knowledge.

The Prophet  ﷺ said: “Knowledge is stored in treasure troves, and the key to those troves is a question, so ask, for four people will be rewarded: the one asking, the scholar, the one listening and the one who loves them.”

When Ibn `Abbas was asked how he attained his vast knowledge, he said: “I was given great understanding in my heart and a tongue that constantly asked questions.” He also said: “I humbled myself in the pursuit of knowledge and I was then honoured as someone from whom people sought knowledge.”

Once when the Prophet  ﷺ was on the minbar delivering a sermon a Bedouin said to him: “Teach me some of the knowledge which you have been taught.” The Prophet then came down, sat with him and taught him and then returned to the minbar.

There are rulings pertaining to begging. If someone possesses enough food for the next day and night it is impermissible for them to beg claiming poverty. The one who shames someone else into giving is like someone who takes money by force. The one who makes begging his profession will always live in poverty however much money he accumulates. This is because his soul and heart are poor.

The worst type of beggars are those who beg in mosques. However, you should not have a bad opinion of such people and if you are able to give something to them there is no harm in doing so, unless you there are clear signs that they will spend the money in disobedience to Allah.

Allah sometimes sends angels in the form of beggars to test His slaves. We should not turn a beggar away, especially if it is the first beggar to approach you that day, because it could be an angel. If you have nothing to give, then say something pleasant to them. Do not raise your voice at them and do not repel them aggressively.

As for the bounty of your Lord, proclaim it

Recall the bounty that Allah has shown you and tell people about it. Part of showing gratitude to Allah is recognising His blessings and telling others about them. The people of Allah talk about Allah’s blessings while their hearts recognise that they do not deserve those blessings. The arrogant talk about Allah’s blessings but attribute those blessings to themselves, like Qarun who said of his great wealth: “I have been given it only on account of the knowledge I possess.”[3]

The Messenger of Allah  ﷺ was given immense gifts and he told people about them. Among the greatest of these were the Qur’an which was revealed to him and prophet-hood. The Companions were once marvelling at the gifts which the previous Prophets had been given. The Prophet heard what they were saying. He said to them that everything they had said was true. Then he told them: “I am the beloved of Allah and this is not a boastful claim; I am the first one to intercede and the first one whose intercession is accepted on the Day of Judgement and this is not a boastful claim; I am the most noble of the first and the last in the sight of Allah and this is not a boastful claim and I am the first person who will come to knock on the gates of Paradise and with me will be the poor believers and this is not a boastful claim.” He thus affirmed their praise for the previous Prophets. He then taught them how to praise him for the blessings Allah had bestowed upon him, for doing so is an act of obedience which draws one closer to Allah.

We thank Allah for the greatest of blessings: Muhammad. Did you pay anything to be a member of his nation? May Allah give him the greatest of rewards on our behalf. May we drink from his pool, may we be in the shade of his banner and may we enter Paradise with him.

***

[1] Al-Zumar, 39:53

[2] Meaning that the Prophet  ﷺ will not be content for any of his Ummah to enter the Fire, and will do his utmost to intercede for every member of his Ummah

[3] Al-Qasas, 28:78

Tafsir of Short Surahs: Surat al-Qadr

A summary of Habib Umar’s commentary on Surat al-Qadr, Ramadan 1436.

Allah says:

Indeed, We sent it down in the Night of Power

There are two meanings to Allah sending down the Qur’an. The first meaning is the first revelation which was revealed to the Prophet ﷺ in the Cave of Hira on Sunday night on the eve of the 17th Ramadan. That night was also Laylat al-Qadr.  The second meaning is that on that same night Allah sent down the whole Qur’an in written form from the ‘Preserved Tablet’ (al-Lawh al-Mahfuz) to the ‘House of Glory’ (Bayt al-`Izzah) which is essentially the Ka`bah of the heavens. From there it was revealed piece by piece to Jibril, who then conveyed it to the Prophet ﷺ. This began when the Prophet ﷺ was aged forty and continued for twenty three years until his death at the age of sixty three.

Allah uses the pronoun “We” as an indication of His majesty. The pronoun “it” refers to the Qur’an. The Qur’an is referred to by only a pronoun here because it was already mentioned in the preceding surah (Surat al-Alaq). Also every Muslim knows that Allah is referring to the Qur’an here.  The Qur’an is on the mind and in the heart of the believer at all times, and therefore does not need to be mentioned explicitly.

One of the meanings of Laylat al-Qadr is the night of decree or ordainment. In this night Allah decrees all things that will take place in the forthcoming year. Allah says in Surat al-Dukhan:

Indeed, We sent it down during a blessed night. On that night every precise matter is made distinct.

“Qadr” can also mean honour and nobility. The person who stands in prayer on Laylat al-Qadr will be raised from a lowly state to a lofty state.

The Prophet ﷺ informed us that: “Whoever stands in prayer on Laylat al-Qadr out of faith and expectation (of Allah’s reward) will have his previous sins forgiven.”

What can make you know what the Night of Power is?

What will enable you to comprehend the greatness of this night and the divine bounty and forgiveness that is bestowed in it?

The Night of Power is better than a thousand months

Good actions on that night surpass the actions of a thousand months that do not contain Laylat al-Qadr.

The Prophet ﷺ informed the Companions of a man from Banu Isra`il who fought in the way of Allah for a thousand months, which is over eighty three years. Another narration mentions that four men from Banu Isra`il spent a thousand months exclusively in the worship of Allah. The Companions were saddened by these accounts since they knew that their short lives would not allow them to attain the same reward as these people. Allah then granted them Laylat al-Qadr. This distinct night was only given to the nation of this Prophetﷺ. The Prophet ﷺ said: “We are the last (of the nations) but also the first (meaning we are the highest in rank).”

Allah multiples the rewards for actions according to certain criteria:

  1. The place in which they are performed. The Prophet ﷺ informed us that one prayer in his mosque (in al-Madinah) is better than a thousand prayers elsewhere, and one prayer in Masjid al-Haram (in Makkah) is better than 100,000 prayers elsewhere. One prayer in Bayt al-Maqdis (in Jerusalem) equals 500 prayers elsewhere. Likewise, Ramadan in Makkah is equivalent to 100,000 Ramadans elsewhere.
  1. The time in which they are performed, such as on Laylat al-Qadr. On this night, praying one single unit of prayer is better than praying 30,000 units on another night, and giving one dirham in charity is better than giving 30,000 dirhams on another night.
  1. The individuals who perform them. The Prophet ﷺ said that the Companions who believed in the early days before the Muslims took Makkah have a higher station than those who believed after that. A small amount of charity from those early Companions is greater than a huge amount from those who came later. There are some people for whom every night is Laylat al-Qadr.

Allah multiplies all good deeds between ten and seven hundred times, except for fasting about which He says: “It is Mine and I will reward people for it Myself.”

Allah tells the angels to record the reward for all the various actions except for fasting. One meaning of this is that when a believer has wronged someone else, the person that he has wronged will take from his good deeds to make up for the wrong that has been done. That person will not, however, be able to take from his fasting. Allah will preserve the reward for his fasting and give the person that has been wronged other good deeds to make up for it.

Sayyidah `A’ishah asked the Messenger of Allah ﷺ what she should ask for if she knew that it was Laylat al-Qadr. This is an indication that the Companions were aware of this special night.

He replied: “Say: O Allah, truly You are all-Pardoning and You love to pardon, so pardon us.”

The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter

The angels that descend to the earth on that night are more numerous than the trees and stones.   One meaning of “qadr” is “constriction,” since the earth becomes crowded or constricted due to the vast number of angels that descend. The people of the heavens and the earth intermingle on this night. This is the only night on which these angels descend to the earth and they join the angels who are already on the earth seeking out gatherings of remembrance. They give greetings to the believers, pray and remember Allah with them and say “amin” to their supplications.  When the believers shake hands with each other, the angels shake hands along with them.

It has been narrated that if someone breaks another person’s fast on food from a halal source, the angels will pray upon him every night in Ramadan and Jibril will pray upon him on Laylat al-Qadr. Another narration with a good chain of transmission states: “Jibril will shake his hand on Laylat al-Qadr and if Jibril shakes hands with someone, his heart will be softened and he will weep in abundance.”  These are the effects of being in the company of Jibril.

“The Spirit” is Jibril, peace be upon him. This is the correct opinion, although some scholars said that what is meant here is a specific category of angels or one great angel.

By permission of their Lord for every matter

Obviously nothing occurs except by His leave, but this is a specific permission which expresses Allah’s contentment with the Ummah of Muhammad ﷺ and His desire to pour His gifts upon them.

The angels are pleased to find people on that night in a state of obedience who had been in a state of disobedience the previous year. Likewise they are sad to see people who are in the opposite situation.

The majority of the scholars believe that Laylat al-Qadr comes in Ramadan, in the odd nights of the last ten nights. Some are of the opinion that it is always on the 27th night, but the correct opinion is that it is on a different night each year. Some say that if any of the odd nights falls on Thursday night, then it is more likely to be Laylat al-Qadr. The pious of the Ummah are aware of its arrival. Some feel the increased presence of the angels and others witness the trees and rocks in prostration to Allah. The Prophetﷺ informed us that it is a tranquil night and it is neither extremely cold nor extremely hot. The sun rises the following morning without any rays because of the vast amount of angels ascending.  After the angels have prayed Fajr with the believers, they are commanded to depart from the earth.

Peace it is, until the rising of the dawn

On that night there is safety and peace from until types of harm and evil until dawn. The day which follows Laylat al-Qadr has the same status as the preceding night. The reward for acts of worship on the day are the same as they are during the night.

May Allah bestow upon us the gifts and blessings of Laylat al-Qadr without measure and may none us of be deprived of these blessings.

Tafsir of Short Surahs: Al-Inshirah

A summary of Habib Umar’s commentary on Surat al-Inshirah, Ramadan 1436.

Allah says:

Have We not expanded your chest for you?

When We ordered Sayyiduna Musa to convey the message, he asked that his chest be expanded: My Lord expand my chest and make easy my affair. However, We gave it to you without you asking. We expanded your heart such that the light of prophethood could enter and you were thus able to convey the message to all the worlds.

Part of this expansion was the splitting of the Prophet’s chest. This took place four times – in his infancy when he was with Sayyidatuna Halimah, when he was ten years old, just before he was made a prophet and on the night of the Isra and Mi`raj.

We filled your heart with knowledge and wisdom.  We increased your tolerance so that you were able to overcome the difficulties of conveying the message. The Prophet said ﷺ: “I have been harmed for Allah’s sake more than anyone else and I have suffered fear for Allah’s sake more than anyone else.”

All good comes from this expansion. No one can accept Islam without it – Allah says that the one whose heart He has opened to Islam has received enlightenment from Him. No one can fulfil their duties fully without it. When the heart has been expanded it is easy for a person to leave that which is forbidden, disliked and excessive; it is easy for him to achieve a lot in a short time and his heart is able to contain knowledge which even the heavens and earth cannot bear.

The Prophet ﷺ said: “When light enters the heart the chest expands.”

They asked: “Is there a sign that this has taken place?”

He said: “Yes: distancing oneself from the Abode of Deception, longing to return to the Abode of Eternity and preparing oneself for death before it comes.”

No one’s chest was expanded in the same way as Muhammad. He was the only one able to go beyond the Lote Tree of the Utmost Boundary and the only one able to see his Lord. 

We removed from you your burden

Which weighed down your back

 One meaning of this burden is conveying the message to mankind and the jinn. Another is the wrongdoings of the Ummah, which the Prophet bears.

Allah is saying: We have blessed your Ummah with forgiveness in a way that no previous nation was blessed. We gave them numerous ways to wipe out their wrongdoings – such as wudu, the five prayers, the Friday Prayer and fasting Ramadan. It has been narrated that the angels are surprised to find people from the previous nations who are saved from the Fire whereas they are surprised to find people from this nation who are not saved.

We removed everything that troubled you and worried you. When the Prophet ﷺ cried out of concern for the wellbeing of his Ummah, Allah sent Jibril to say to him: “We will make you content concerning your Ummah and We will not allow it to be a source of sadness for you.”

We raised high the esteem in which you are held

Allah says: “Whenever I am mentioned, you are mentioned with Me.” On the Throne the Prophet’s name is with Allah’s name: la ilaha ill’Allah Muhammad Rasul Allah. On the gates of Paradise is written: la ilaha ill’Allah Muhammad Rasul Allah. In the call to prayer, the Prophet’s name is with Allah’s name. The one who enters Islam must say: la ilaha ill’Allah Muhammad Rasul Allah. If someone bestows one prayer upon the Prophet, Allah bestows ten upon that person. In the grave you will be asked who your Lord is and who your Prophet is.

His nation will be the first nation to be resurrected, the first to have their actions weighed and the first to enter Paradise. He will be the first to intercede and Adam and the other Prophets will be under his banner.

Another meaning is that from the time of Adam to this day, no one’s life has been recorded in such detail as the life of Muhammad – his words, his actions, his character and his appearance.

Truly With hardship comes ease

This statement is repeated twice. There is a subtlety in the Arabic language that suggests that there is only one hardship and it is repeated twice, whereas there are two types of ease and the second is different from the first. This is why the Prophet  ﷺ said: “One portion of hardship will not overcome two portions of ease.” It is Allah’s way to make ease follow hardship. For that reason the people of insight would be happy when tribulation descended because they knew that ease would follow. The greatness of the ease is according to the greatness of the tribulation.

The Prophet ﷺ said to Ibn `Abbas: “Victory comes with patience, relief comes with tribulation and ease comes with hardship.”

Recitation of Surat al-Inshirah is one of the means of seeking relief from Allah and a means of removing constriction.

When you are free, labour hard

When you complete your prayer supplicate, for this is when supplications are answered. When you finish your jihad, engage in worship. Whenever you complete an action, immediately embark on another. Do not waste any time. Sayyidah `Aishah said: “The Prophet would remember Allah in every state. He was always coming and going, always in reflection, constantly in a state of sadness.”

And turn to your Lord entirely

Seek Him alone with absolute sincerity and plead with Him. This is one of the etiquettes that Allah taught His Beloved.

May Allah expand our chests as He expanded the chest of our Master Muhammad.

O Allah, remove our burdens and raise our station in Your sight. Do not separate us from Your Beloved on the Day of Judgement. O Allah, remind him of us so that we are mentioned in Your presence!